Because infill development occurs, by definition, in established neighbourhoods, it is bound to run into snags and encounter challenges along the way. Paragon Design Build has become one of the most successful infill developers in Winnipeg because of its ability and willingness to listen, adapt and compromise.
“We’re dealing with older neighbourhoods. That means old infrastructure like sewers and water pipes. It means houses that are built closely together. It also means that we’re building something new on a street that probably has mostly older homes,” said Nigel Furgus, President of Paragon Design Build.
Paragon has built dozens of infill projects over the last decade – including single family homes, condominiums, apartment buildings and duplexes. According to Furgus, just about every one of them has encountered some kind of unforeseen issue or challenge.
Two modern duplexes at 993 and 995 Jessie Avenue in Crescentwood are a perfect example, he says. Paragon had purchased a derelict house that had become an eyesore and constant source of complaints in the neighbourhood. It occupied a double lot, which gave Paragon the opportunity to divide the lot and put up two new structures.
The company notified the community that it was applying for a variance to subdivide the property. Most of the neighbours were in favour of the project as it would clean up and vastly improve a broken down property. The process chugged along until it arrived at a city hall meeting to approve the design of the new duplexes. An area resident demanded to be heard at the closed door meeting and for the process to be halted. She felt she hadn’t been properly consulted on the design.
Erring on the side of caution, the committee voted to set its decision aside to deal with her concerns. Meanwhile, Paragon had already scheduled piles to be driven into the ground the next day.
“We had to press pause on the project and we called in engineers to make sure the site was safe and secure,” said Furgus. “We didn’t want any damage to the neighbouring houses who were now bordering on an excavated lot with piles partly driven into the ground.”
The design and was approved and building permits issued shortly afterwards and construction was restarted. Construction was completed in 2020 and the units were leased almost immediately.
“It’s part of the process. You have to expect the unexpected,” said Furgus. “This is one of the reasons we always do our best to canvas the neighbourhood and talk with our new neighbours well in advance. But even doing that won’t eliminate all the potential challenges. Our job is to act responsibly and protect our interest as well as the interest of the neighbourhood.”
The same project had to overcome a second hurdle when contractors discovered that the next door neighbour’s sewer line was on Paragon’s property.
“We could have demanded that they move the sewer line, but we didn’t. There was no need. We agreed to leave it where it was because we want to be good neighbours,” said Furgus.
The result of the process was that the street now has two modern duplexes that gently densify the neighbourhood while also pulling up property values all along the street.
“The design is modern, but we did our best to make sure the roof lines and other elements are in keeping with the neighbouring houses,” said Furgus. “They fit in beautifully and are home to families who now live and work in the area. They shop in the stores and eat in the restaurants on Corydon Avenue, and their children are attending nearby schools.”
The Jessie Avenue project had a happy ending as so many good infill projects do. Paragon is determined to continue to lead the way, making a good example of how infill developers can end up being welcomed.
993/995 Jessie Avenue
Year completed: 2020
Second Floor Units: 830 square feet, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, quartz counter tops, 9 foot ceilings, luxury vinyl plank flooring, Lennox high efficiency furnace, a/c, free high speed internet
Main Floor Units: 1660 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 9 foot ceilings, luxury vinyl plank flooring, Lennox high efficiency furnace, a/c, free high speed internet